A Very Old House in Biñan, Laguna (Alonso-Alberto house)
This was an episode from I-Witness as presented by Howie Severino on channel 7, documenting the Alonso-Alberto house in Biñan, Laguna. It looks like the dismantling and transfer is final. You can check the I-Witness documentary video here or here (links not available anymore.)
No offense meant but I find it trivial and inconsequential the argument that was used to justify it’s (partial) sale and removal from Biñan (said to be the Alonso-Alberto family relation in the past.) I thought that after more than a century, it would be water under the bridge and would not have any bearing in the conservation of this house.
A johnny-come-lately here is the government of Biñan (still no offense intended.) The house has stood there for more than a century (some mentioned the house as being 200 hundred years old) and one would think that would have been ample time in securing the house from being demolished or as in this case, transferred. If they knew that it was that important, they should not have waited for the NHI (apparently the NHI tried placing a historical marker on the house, but the family refused.) A plaque should have been placed even through a local ordinance or through a council resolution a long time ago. This is a case of too little, too late. I’m not a lawyer, but they could have tried to secure a TRO to temporarily halt the dismantling of the Alberto house if they really wanted to prevent the transfer of the house from Biñan to Bataan. The move by the local government, the way I see it, was not only too late but was half-hearted. If there was really a (political) will, they would have had found a way. And I was hoping that this would be a test case for the Heritage Act.
But in fairness to the former owner of the Alberto house, with the chaos and the smell that is just beyond the ancestral house’s wall, who would want to live in a house with the public market at your doorstep.
Biñan could have been a heritage town like Pila which is also in Laguna or like Taal in Batangas. But I guess like most small towns that embraces “progress” and striving for cityhood, a lot has to be sacrificed. Rampant commercialism and urban blight is what I can see in the town’s old center. The town plaza is surrounded by nondescript structures, rampant commercialism and urban blight. Fortunately links to the past still exist. Like one of the more beautiful monuments to Dr. Jose Rizal (it looks similar to the one in Zamboanga City), the old municipal hall and the soon to be gone (hopefully not) Alberto-Alonzo house which as mentioned, was said to be 200 years old.
Through the efforts of Dr. Bimbo Sta. Maria and BJ Borja, there is a campaign to save and to keep in Biñan the Alberto house. In June of 2010, a cultural protest was stage at the very doorstep of the house in dispute. The photos here were taken during that event.
I believe one thing that is (obviously) working against the preservation of this house is the location. It looks like it is occupying prime real estate which makes the land more valuable without the “old” house. A more economically viable “new” structure erected in its place will be more commercially feasible. And whoever decides to save or restore the house, there is the problem or nuisance that once outside, one can see what I believe is a part or extension of the public market. Making it chaotic and smelly. One can see this in the photos, were the house is hemmed in by all sorts of commercial establishments and stalls.
This is probably the only original structure left standing that has a direct connection to Dr. Jose Rizal and his family. Hence its importance not only for Biñan and the province of Laguna, but also for the Philippines. Rizal being the country’s greatest hero. Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary is just a few months away and it’s ironic that his mother’s house (which he probably stayed in or visited too) is mired in controversy and its very existence is in danger of either being demolished or being transferred. Disappearing altogether in the town where Rizal’s parents are from.
(Original since the one in Calamba is a post war replica and the one in San Nicolas, Binondo burned down a few years ago. Connected, since it is reputedly the house of the family of Rizal’s mother.)
But whatever the circumstances that surrounds the history of the house whether it is directly connected to Jose Rizal or not, it is still important to save this (heritage) structure for the simple reason that it is a part not only of the tangible heritage of Biñan, but forms part of its history. And it is the people of this town that would lose if the house is either uprooted or torn down. A part of their memory would be gone.
Hopefully, a miracle will happen and thanks to the efforts of Dr. Bimbo Sta. Maria and BJ Borja.
For the video links credits goes to the original uploader and the videos are from GMA-7.